USO Sponsors Spouse Career Expo

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2006 - More than 150 military spouses from around the Washington Metropolitan area attended the first daylong Military Spouse Career Expo at Fort Belvoir, Va., on June 17.

The expo was "designed to empower military spouses through information, motivation and skill development leading to sound career choices, which included presentations on federal jobs, self-employment and alternative careers," expo officials said.

The United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington and Joint Employment Transition Services hosted the expo, which was held in Belvoir's Sosa Recreation Center.

Kathy Carroll, USO's special events manager, said the expo was held to help give military spouses real career choices.

"Many military spouses have to work, and they're looking at options other than working at the local grocery store or discount big box store," Carroll noted. "We're trying to make them aware of careers that are transferable. For example, we'll have a woman who writes books. One of our sponsors is a realtor who owns her own business and is a military spouse."

Carroll said the variety of subjects discussed during the expo gives a military spouse every tool needed to have a career rather than a job. "And that's the idea," she said.

The keynote speaker for the morning session was Debbie Koleppel, a military spouse and founder and chief executive officer of Military Spouse Corporate Career Network, who spoke about "Developing Your Career Passion." The afternoon keynote was Victoria Parham, president of, who talked about the "Virtual Business Owners Network."

After lunch, Koleppel conducted a seminar on "Developing Your Career Passion."

Koleppel started out by telling the audience that she's going to need 20 spouses in the next eight to 10 months and asked them to post on the Web site.

"I can get you jobs, but I can't prepare you to get the job - that's your job along with Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard spouse employment professionals," Koleppel said. "These are the people who should be developing your resumes. These are the people who should be doing your skills assessment.

"You wouldn't believe how valuable your resumes are in corporate America," she noted. "You won't believe what they pay for diversity and language skills."

Koleppel told the audience members they need to set themselves up for success. "You must get yourself job-ready," she said. "Have a resume ready to roll and look at the job site out there that will take your resume. It's called resume mining, and all the corporations are going to it." Kloeppel, along with her team, has placed hundreds of military spouses in many companies across the country. She told the military spouses that they're not helping themselves if they expect companies to bend over backward to help them.

"Corporations want somebody who isn't going to go in there and say, 'I can't work Monday through Friday 9 to 5, because I've got this or that,'" she said. "One of the No. 1 reasons why military spouses blow interviews is saying they can't do certain things. Corporations want to know that you're going to fit into their culture."

When Parham took the podium, she advised the spouses to explore all available career options. "That one option you fail to explore could be the one that leads you to the place you're trying to get to," Parham noted. "Seize opportunities where there are none."

She said might involve starting a business to fill a need. "If there is a need or demand for a service or product within your community, and no person or company is there to fulfill the service or product need, don't be afraid to step up to the plate and make it happen," she said, especially if you have the skills and know-how to make it happen."

Parham said those who lack skills should take college courses, get some formalized training and reach out and ask for help.

Challenges always are going to be there and obstacles are always going to present themselves, Parham said. "The one thing you must continue to do: 'Think big, dream big and always allow your purpose to be your passion," she said.

Other speakers included federal job search and federal resume-writing expert Kathryn Troutman, who conducted a workshop on getting a federal job. Patricia Peacock, director of the South Fairfax Small Business Development Center in Springfield, Va., conducted a "Be Your Own Boss" workshop.

Industry image consultant Rita Gworek held a workshop called "Interview Attire" to help men and women to dress for success in the workplace.

The daylong event also featured a "mini job fair," including national and local employers, information on home-based businesses and representatives from the Small Business Administration.

Related Sites:

United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington []

America Supports You []

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